Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Pentax Spotmatic F

Around Zionsville

I decided that I’d own but one Pentax SLR body for the M42 screw lens mount. It was easy enough to discard a Spotmatic SP with a dead meter and a rough winder. But I still had to decide between my ES II and this, my Spotmatic F, both of which offered open-aperture metering with Super-Multi-Coated and SMC Takumar lenses.

Pentax Spotmatic F

It was a tough choice. My ES II is an aperture-priority camera and that’s my favorite way to shoot. It was in very good cosmetic and functional condition. The Spotmatic F has a match-needle exposure system, which is a half-beat slower for me than aperture priority. But it had been a seldom-used sales demonstrator and had been CLA’d when I got it. It was, essentially, new. And what a performer it is! Here’s a favorite shot I made with a 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens on Kodak Plus-X.

Ol' propeller nose

I loaded some Ektar 100 into the Spotmatic for this outing, and screwed on my 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens. I love the 35mm focal length for everyday walking-around photography, which is the kind of photography I do most often.

Around Zionsville

The SPF felt wonderful and performed flawlessly in my hands, just as it always had. The Ektar beautifully captured the September colors.

Around Zionsville

Every photo on the roll came out a little overexposed, though. I’ve noticed that on the Pentax bodies I own that were CLA’d by Erik Hendrickson (as this one) I always need to reduce exposure in Photoshop by a half stop or so. Perhaps I should set the cameras that way. Perhaps I should test this SPF’s exposure readings against a known-good light meter.

Around Zionsville

I felt mighty lazy the day I took this photo walk — I couldn’t be bothered to move in closer to a number of subjects. This one would be helped by a closer crop. When was the last time you saw a Chevy Citation parked curbside, though?

Around Zionsville

I took two walks through Zionsville to complete this roll. Zionsville is simply charming.

Around Zionsville

To see more of my work with this camera, check out my Pentax Spotmatic F gallery.

Using the SPF cemented my decision. Before I even sent this roll of Ektar off for processing, I gave the ES II to a fellow film photographer. The ES II remains a lovely and capable camera, and there will be times I wished my SPF would let me shoot aperture priority. But this SPF is just too compelling on its own to let go of.

Verdict: Keep

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19 thoughts on “Operation Thin the Herd: Pentax Spotmatic F

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Recently I just satisfied my curiosity about the “K” series Pentax’s vs. the screw mount stuff. People always say that the K-1000 is the modern version of the bare-bones Pentax Spotmatic, but as a guy that used to own a Spotmatic, I always felt that the K-1000 was far clunkier and had more vibration. Since I never did much 35mm anyway, I abandoned the Pentax system right after they changed mounts, but I have to say, even to this day, I can pick transparencies out of my collection and identify them as being shot with the Pentax multicoated screw-mount lenses!

    I have a few K-1000’s now, and I’m trying to get them cleaned by Hendrickson, and I’m collecting a few lenses, but I still feel that I might have tried getting a clean SP500 instead as a better body! A pal sent me his old Spotmatic, and when I trip it next to the K-1000’s at the same time, the Spotmatic feels smoother and is quieter. The K2, KX, or KM might have been the same as the old Spotmatic, but the K-1000 was certainly NOT!

    I say keep the F, and get yourself a nice selection of screw mount multi-coats, and go to town!

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    • I had a K1000 CLA’d by Hendrickson this year. You are fully right: it’s not as smooth or precise as the Spotmatic.

      My Pentax KM is essentially the same camera as the K1000, plus mirror lockup and DOF preview. It’s been well cared for but used consistently over the last 42 years. It feels more smooth and precise than that CLA’d K1000.

      Of course, Pentax made K1000s for a couple decades, cheapening them bit by bit over the years. I wonder if a first-year K1000 has the same feel as a KM.

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  2. Glad you made that choice. The Spotmatic has been the bedrock of my photography experience and produced far more images for me than any other camera in my collection. I bought mine about 1970. I have a good assortment of lenses for the Spotmatic, so it often gets exercised for that reason. I have not shot it with the 35mm focal length much because I have an excellent 24mm, but looking at your pictures I’m thinking I need to start using the 35mm more.

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    • It really was a close race between the SPF and the ES II. It hurt the ES II that it takes so many batteries and that the camera drains them so fast. It helped this particular SPF that I know something of its provenance: demonstrator for a Pentax salesman, on ice for a number of years, CLA’d, then into my hands.

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  3. Kurt Ingham says:

    I would have kept the ES! I like my other 35mm Pentax cameras, but the ES (bought new) is the only one I ever really ‘bonded’ with.

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  4. Very good choice. One of my favorite SLRs! One tip for SPF newbies…the light meter is active whenever the camera senses a light source above say EV3. Pentax manual says to keep the lens cap on whenever not using the camera. Other than that little quirk, I could shoot the rest of my days with the SPF and be very happy.

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  5. I’m glad you kept this one Jim. I have only two SLRs now, a Spotmatic F and a Contax 139 Quartz. Best manual and aperture priority cameras I’ve used respectively. And the F is the perfect companion to those wonderful Takumars…

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